Cloves in Bed, All is Well

Planting garlic is a joyous fall project. So satisfying to get the cloves tucked into their bed, and so encouraging when their little shoots poke through the straw in January.

This year I’ve planted four types: Spanish Roja and Killarney Red, both hardnecks so I’ll have plenty of scapes, and Inchelium Red and Lorz Italian, both softnecks (with huge cloves), which will be great for braiding and hanging in the kitchen.

If you haven’t yet planted your garlic or shallots, look for it at local nurseries or farmers markets, or order online. Two great Washington growers are Filaree Garlic Farm and Irish Eyes Garden Seeds. On their websites, you also can learn more about garlic types so you can throw around terms like Rocambole, Silverskin and Creole.

Here are the basic planting steps.

Garlic heads

Time to plant garlic! My four types: Spanish Roja, Killarney Red, Inchelium Red, and Lorz Italian.

Cloves spread out

Rows are measured and marked, heads are broken into cloves and spaced out. 10 inches between rows, 5 inches between cloves.

Straight garlic rows

Connie looks over the nice, straight rows.

Planting cloves

Working my way down the rows. Go Seahawks!

Planting garlic cloves

Planting the cloves 2-3 inches deep.

Garlic mulched

When they’re all planted, the bed is covered with a straw mulch to squelch weeds and prevent soil compaction from rain.

The Final Fall Plantings

Your summer crops are coming out of the garden now, and finally there is space available to put in some winter vegetables. But alas, the nursery shelves are bare and the days are getting too short and cool for anything to germinate, right? Well, no.

Late September and through October is the perfect time to get some overwintering beans and peas started, while putting in a lot of edible alliums that will spice up your meals next summer.

Get an early start on your spring peas by planting them now. A row of bush peas sown now will get a couple of sets of leaves before winter, and then will need a cloche or cold frame to protect them. In early spring, pull away the cover and they will take off, providing you peas well ahead of the spring plantings. Try Sugar Ann or Cascadia, snap peas, or Oregon Sugar Pod II, a snow pea.


Fava beans are one of my go-to winter plants. I often put them in where my tomatoes

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or peppers have been. If you keep your late=season or cherry tomato plants alive for that last gasp of fall fruit, favas might be the only thing that will sprout once you finally pull them out.

Fava beans can be planted throughout October and into November for a May or June harvest. I love the large-seeded varieties like Aquadulce or Broad Windsor for eating, but I also plant a smaller-seeded type as a cover crop.

Fava beans

Young fava beans planted in October. They protect the ground from compaction and nutrient-leaching during winter rains.

Once they’ve gotten a good start and are a few inches high, favas should not need any special protection in the winter. An exception is if the weather turns sharply cold unexpectedly. A freak early frost can turn beans to mush; if you see it

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coming, throw floating row cover over the plants to protect them.

The cover type will be cut down just as they are starting to flower in spring, having protected your garden bed from the winter rains and even nurtured it a bit by adding nitrogen through a process that fixates it on their roots.

Broad Windsor Fava Beans

Fava beans in full flower.

Onions, garlic and other alliums are also planted in late fall in the Maritime garden.

Transplant starts of Walla Walla or other sweet bulbing varieties in October, for a harvest about June. Bunching onions, or those desired for scallions, can be started now and thinned as needed.

The Egyptian Walking Onion is a unique topsetting variety that will give you green onions twice a year and self-sow its bulblets near the parent plant.

Shallots and garlic are divided and planted in late October, for harvests that will start in mid-June, depending upon the varieties.

Garlic shoots

For all the alliums, I dig in a lot of compost when planting, then cover the bed loosely with a straw mulch for the winter. Seeing garlic shoots emerge from the straw mulch is one of the most hopeful signs in the garden in January.

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